Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Examining the Effectiveness of Team-Based Learning (TBL) in Different Classroom Settings

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Examining the Effectiveness of Team-Based Learning (TBL) in Different Classroom Settings

Article excerpt


The past twenty years has seen a concerted effort to increase the use of active-learning methods in STEM courses at the college level. Among these techniques are collaborative or cooperative learning (Johnson et al., 1998), projectbased learning (Regassa and Morrison-Shetlar, 2009) and problem-based learning (Allen, 1997). There is now ample evidence that these methods promote critical thinking, higher-order processing and greater retention of information than lecture-only instruction (Springer et al., 1999), yet a number of substantive issues about the effective implementation of active-learning methods remain (Prince, 2004). In order for active-learning methods to succeed, it is essential for students to come to class prepared; therefore, the development of mechanisms to accomplish this are essential.

Team-Based Learning (TBL) is a robust variety of collaborative learning that confronts this issue using a highly structured framework (Michaelsen et al., 2002). It was first implemented in classes for management and social sciences and it is now being used in many different subject areas, including the natural sciences (Metoyer et al., 2014). In this article, we discuss our experiences in teaching two largeenrollment (90 and 300 students) oceanography classes using TBL and we evaluate the effects that the method has upon student learning and achievement.

The TBL model

In order to prepare students to engage in active learning and collaborative investigative projects, Team-Based Learning is built around four main components. The first component is the formation of permanent teams. These are relatively large by the standards of ''traditional'' cooperative learning. Five to seven students per team is the recommended size (Michaelsen et al., 2002). The rationale for the large size is that the team can continue to function effectively as a unit even if a few members are absent. These teams are assembled by the instructor with the goal of balancing skills, experience, content knowledge, and diversity among the teams. Formal roles for each team member are not assigned so that the team may use each member's skills most effectively.

The second major component of TBL is the ''Readiness Assurance Process.'' In the TBL paradigm, the delivery of information during class time is minimized or even eliminated, so that students must complete assigned readings on their own to be ready for investigations during class. The motivation for this preparation is the Readiness Assessment Test (RAT). These tests are administered at the start of a unit or module and comprise three phases in a manner similar to two-stage cooperative or pyramid exams (Yuretich et al., 2001). The first phase is an individual closedbook test that can be completed in a short period of time. This is followed by a repeat of the test that is completed as a team and it is also closed-book. The third phase of the RAT is the ''challenge'' that allows students to propose alternate correct answers based on evidence they can find in their readings or notes. The success of the RAT requires grading of the individual and team tests in real time so students will have feedback for the challenge portion.

Team investigations, the third component of the TBL format, are the centerpiece of the method. The secret to the success of the effort is that teamwork or collaboration is required only during class time to avoid the myriad problems in having students arrange meetings around their own often conflicting schedules. The in-class team investigations revolve around a topic that builds upon the information acquired during the Readiness Assurance Process. All teams work on the same investigation so they can share insights during the reporting phase. This team reporting process is also most effective if it can be done in a way that allows teams to present their answers simultaneously, so that the teams can share information and ideas among one another. …

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